tv Dateline NBC NBC January 11, 2010 3:00am-4:00am EST
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it was the night of the summer solstice, the night that he does appeared. >> he was very lighthearted. good sense of humor. a really good person. >> a bright college kid, whose group of friends dabbled in something strange. the dark arts of the occult. >> they were called the mystics circle. >> one student missing, soon another. kidnapped. >> what kind of mystery was this? >> it just didn't make sense.
>> the trail would lead to an eerie place of danger and evil. >> a dark tunnel. it would be a terrible place to end your life. >> tonight a famous crime novelist returns to the case, what secrets will be found in the dark? >> this is a place where anything can happen. >> the mystery in manson tunnel. good evening. welcome to "dateline." i'm ann curry. millions of americans have read his books about veteran detectives who crack cases through instinct. michael connolly started as a crime reporter working for the l.a. times he covered the very story we bring you tonight. a case of a young man who disappeared on the evening of the summer soand for the detectives working this case it was stranger than fiction.
here is keith morris. tucked away in the hills, is a place they call the manson tunnel. it is actually an old railroad tunnel. venture inside if you dare. see the blackened walls adorned with graffiti, cryptic drawings, strange other world lly symbols. there were rumors of the occult gathering said to happen here. satanic worship and animal sacrifices. it was after the grisly crimes of charles smomanson that peopl started applying his name to the tunnel. but it's what happened here in the grimy darkness two decades ago that still haunts los angeles police detective rick jackson. >> talk to any detective, fo an extended period of time, there is cases that still bother them. and i think about this case a lot. >> is was june 23rd, 1990, the
night that fell at the end of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the day jackson is trying to make sense of. >> get a call at home from my boss. he said, we have a case, you and frank are up. he explained about the john doe murder victim had been found. >> frank garcia, a veteran lapd detective and jackson's partner. john doe was the body of an unidentified young man found dead inside the tunnel. >> he had multiple stab wounds, had his throat slit. but initially from just looking at the scene from a distance, and the amount of blood it looked like perhaps he could have gotten hit by a train. >> t in this dark rear eerie tl with symbols it be cam clear this was no accident. >> his throat was slashed twice. it just looked like potentially it could be a satanic related
case. or it could be some cult killing. >> possible cult killing in the manson tunnel? l.a.'s local news media pounced on the story including a young newspaper reporter and aspiring crime novelist named michael conley. >> i was thinking it would be a terrible police to end your life that was for sure. i was thinking about being in there, in the darkness what that would have been like. >> who was this young man? who died such a violent death in that dark tunnel? john doe number 135 was taken to the coroner's office for an autopsy. but back up again to the summer so solstice. the parents of two grown children were getting ready for bed. >> i received this call, late at night, there was a strange voice that i didn't recognize. and said we have your son. unless you give us $100,000 by
5:00 tomorrow you will die. >> the parents, gail and kate baker their son ron had gone to school at ucla. >> i thought the is was somekind of prank. so i called his apartment to find out if he was there. and i was told that -- that he had been dropped off at a rest stop and he was going to be meeting at ucla. he hadn't returned and this almost midnight. awe a >> the next morning, ron hadn't returned to his apartment but his father did receive another call. >> unless you give us $100,000 by 5:00 he will die. and at that time i really did become worried. i called the police. >> police tapped their telephone wire anticipating another ransom call. when the phone rang it was not the kidnapper it was detective rick jackson.
>> asking is ron wearing earrings and a pendant? and he had done that. so then they came to see us. and told us his body had been found. >> it was the body found in the manson tunnel, their only son ron. he was just 21. >> is there any way to understand, anybody can understand what that was like? >> it's devastating. >> ron baker was a junior at ucla, bright, popular, and as his big sister, patty remembers. >> he was a really good person, jen within person. very lighthearted. good sense of humor. liked to play jokes. at the same time he was like a straight a student. >> ron was a neat thinker too. his major astro physics and curious about the world around him, maybe that's why he developed an interest in a
particular religion that went beyond his own methodist faith. >> anything that i saw that he believed about wicka, or was into wicka, to me seemed part of his learning and tried to gain knowledge. >> the trendy and much misunderstood new pagan religion. white magic, naturalism, harmless, really. ron was intrigued. he joined a club at ucla that explored the metaphysical. >> specifically they were called the mystics circle. and they had -- had meetings and they had guest speakers on the occult related topics. >> was ron baker's death the result of witchcraft, satanic sacrifice. suddenly the murder in the manson tunnel was a very hot story. >> now investigators wonder if there is a connection to the murder of the young student. ron baker whose body was found in train tunnel behind it. >> what stood out to me the most
was how many reporters were on the story. what made it significant? the public interest. and what happens when the kid -- who has the kind of background as backer, goes to a school like ucla ends up deaden the tunnel up in the hills above chatsworth. >> how did ron baker end up dead in that tunnel? and why? maybe there was something to this occult connection. >> on the date of the summer solstice which its a day of celebration for many, many, various pagan philosophies. we didn't know what to make of it at first. >> 20 years on it isn't dreams of the occult that wormed their way in, is was where the trial led when it left the pent grams on the wall of the manson tunnel. coming up, a crypting phone call in the middle of the night. and another young man disappeared.
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the city definitely kind of like murder city usa feel to it. there was all kinds of crime. >> michael connolly is one of america's best selling crime novelists. in 1990 he was a newspaper reporter. but the media swarming all over the ron baker murder in the manson tunnel. >> there is possibility of cult and pentagrams, it just adds another dimension of, adds to it. local television had picked up the occult angle. >> channel 4 news learned he was involved in, both on and off the ucla campus. >> in fact, it was the one tantalizing detectives had to go on. there were no suspects but two
people who had seen baker a few hours before he was killed. their roommates. >> the first thing we wanted to do -- perhaps pick up the tough guy look of his from his time in the military. he got a job as a part time security guard. duncan martinez on the other hand was very talkative, friendly. and he seemed very much at ease talking to the two cops. duncan had put in time as a marine, but as a roommate, he had a variety of odd jobs. they had been close friends for years. >> called several times and participated in a gathering. >> seem look a nice fellow?
>> seemed like a nice guy. >> when detectives arrived at the apartment. duncan was there to greet them. >> he seemed upset. disbelieving. the other roommate was out of town at a family reunion. but his girlfriend was there. she had been in the apartment the afternoon ron was last seen alive. >> after dinner, they were going to be taking ron to the bus stop so he wouldn't have to walk. ron didn't drive. >> ron intended to take the bus to the ucla campus. meeting with his mystics circle group. nathan and duncan were planning on playing basketball after dropping him off. detectives looked around the apartment. it was obvious all the roommates were interested in wicca. >> the apartment had an altar,
candles, pentagrams all the wicca stuff there. ron they pointed out was still a member in good standing of a student methodist group, his so-called interest in wicca was being overblown by the media. >> he wouldn't give up anything with his beliefs in the church. he was into that. >> he was deeply emotional. especially when duncan martinez, gave a stirring eulogy. >> it was the most friendliest, sweetest, guy there.
and i -- i just hope that -- that because i love him. but as mourners gathered here almost a week after the murder, the mystery of john bakron bakeh was opaque. the detectives had no suspect. no murder weapons. although there were a couple of clues, not much few go on. at least it was something. for one thing, ron was drunk at the team of his murder. his blood alcohol three times the legal limit though he was not known as a drinker. and also they found blood underneath ron's finger nails. drunk or not he must have fought for his life. >> there was no dna at the time. all could do was type and match. the blood may be positive.
>> 4%. but with no suspect. they returned to the apartment. martinez went out. >> we went through a check list of how can we eliminate these guys. >> nathan and duncan retold the very same story they had dropped ron off at a nearby bus stop for a trip to ucla, but he never came home. >> the two of them were their own alibis for what they did and the moment they left until they got back late that night. on the day, on the evening of the murder. >> which seemed to eliminate the room mates. there was something in the apartment that seemed a little odd. >> we found that ron had to take his backpack. >> something duncan said also
seemed strange. after hearing ron had been kidnapped, he and nathan conducted their own search for him. >> he to us that he and nathan went to chatsworth park near the tunnel to look. why would anybody go look for their friend at chatsworth park near the tunnel if he was kidnapped. >> intriguing. well, hardly incriminating. this duncan martinez character was quite a talker answering questions the detectives did not ask. was he telling the truth? >> we offered him a polygraph. >> nathan plblaylock refused to take the test >> he came up deceptive every key question. >> deceptive. lie detectors tests are not always reliable more of an investigative tool. which in this case may have backfired. >> a few days later, we got a ll. duncan had retained an attorney.
and -- we wouldn't be questioning him anymore. >> any way the idea that duncan martinez and blaylock were mixed up in his murder seemed as far-fehed well as black magic. >> is just didn't make sense that these two guys could do that to their roommate. >> and the bakers felt the same way. >> i remember my dad told me, frank garcia had called him and kind of asked him some questions about duncan and mentioned that they were possibly looking at him and -- forces for you know, we, we just kind of didn't believe it. >> without any further evidence, the investigation stalled. interest cooled. the satanic idea seemed suddenly far-fetched. at some point the media started to stand down a little bit. because they thought, you know this is not going to go the occult way. >> then, a month after the summer solstice. middle of the night. >> about 2:00 in the morning my
partner and i received a phone call from our boss. saying, hey, duncan martinez just made a phone call to a friend of his in the middle of the night. said he is being held hostage. >> at the warehouse. i don't know what is going on. [ bleep ]. i'm going to try how to get out of here. holy [ bleep ], [ bleep ]. [ dial tone ] >> coming up. first ron baeke baker. now his roommate duncan. >> the case is about to take an unusual turn. two suspects. no one imagined when "dateline" continues.
>> the trains first start rolling through the manson tunnel that smer of 1990. who committed the crime within its dark walls remand a mystery. now just a few weeks after the kidnapping and murder of ron baker here, the lapd was dealing with another seemingly similar case. a cryptic phone call from becker's roommate, duncan martinez suggested he too had been kidnapped and his life was in danger. this time, the call was recorded. >> i'm a going to fry how to get out of here. >> had duncan martinez gone from murder suspect to kidnap victim. >> possibly who ever killed ron had goten him too. >> maybe. >> or was it one of the detectives, something else entirely. >> the kidnapping phone call that he left was a total farce.
i think the motive for him making the phone call was if he is kidnapped then we'll stop looking for him. >> maybe duncan didn't fear that anybody would bother checking where the call came from. >> we traced the phone call to a pay phone at the las vegas airport. so a pretty good indication that the pressur was on him and he was -- as long as he remained gone. we cannot eliminate him. >> then, about the same type, an extreme clue turned up in ron baker's background. a check. >> written to duncan martinez. it was a lot of money. we got the hard copy of the check and had the handwriting done and is was a forged signature of ron baker. >> $109 hardly seemed like motive for murder.
>> he was gone. missing the we had no idea where he was. >> weeks passed. no more phone calls or forged checks or crazy reports from the elusive martinez. >> after hearing nothing from him, we talked to duncan's family. and then we still worked on nathan too. >> yes, nathan, nathan blaylock, remember him? the other roommate of ron baker and close pal of duncan martinezch he too left the apartment and l.a. >> that's not nathan. >> for a while nathan didn't seem to mind when diane told her friend about the murder in manson tunnel. >> then nathan started getting more subdued.
and he said i would like you not to talk about it any more. >> detectives wanted to talk about the murder. they had question as but what happened that summer solstice. >> nathan was always as cool as a cucumberch heave was in going to tell us anything. he was going to stick to the story. we said if he is lying, he is the best liar. >> but he also insisted he had no idea where his pal duncan martinez was. and now the baker family had taken a little less rosie view of ron's roommates. especially his long time friend duncan. one day while ron's father was rummaging around his garage, he discovered some boxes he had so graciously allowed duncan to store there. >> i wa looking through the box. i discovered this note. things to do. one of the things on the note was to get a new identity to sell his car, it sounded like he was -- you know getting ready to -- to leave the country or
something. >> maybe he had. six months since ron baker turned up dead in that train tunnel. the once hot murder investigation was turning ice cold. >> well -- rather let down and helpless, what more can you do? >> the detective stayed on the case. jackson was especially committed. as if consumed with finding ron baker's killers. >> there are pictures. >> if detectives knew anything the is was that the answers about the murder of ron baker must somehow go through duncan martinez the but he stayed gone.
and then -- it was about a year and a half later and hundreds of miles away from l.a., a traffic policeman happened to notice a violation. and a dead case was reborn. coming up -- a missing man is found at a plan is hatched. an undercover operation to catch a killer. >>to him is was, hey, man this is hollywood stuff here. i can really pull this off. >> would it work? when the mystery of "manson tunnel" continues. ♪
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think about some thing that would have been but aren't. what he would have made of his life. whether we would have had more grandchildren, things like that. >> there was no scale big enough, no way to measure the baker family's loss in the manson tunnel in the smer solstice, or any way to know what happens unless ron baker's friend duncan martinez suddenly showed up and told investigators what he knew about ron's murder. >> somebody has got to run into
this guy. he has got to turn up some place. >> then one day the fbi was on the phone asking detectives if they knew a young man in utah. stopped at a traffic violation in salt lake city. produced a driver's license under the name of jonathan wayne phillips. so the ficer, and the violation, ran the name and came back with a warrant, federal warrant, fraudulent passport on li kags. -- application. jonathan wayne miller, the name came from a tombstone. and the man behind the fraudulent passport, duncan martinez. he had tried to flee the country with a fake passport but was bued and only got as far as utah. >> we were ecstatic. we wouldn't believe it. after a year and a half almost. here he is in salt lake city. in custody. the attorney calls us, for duncan, he may want to talk to you guys because he is toord ir
being on run. they rush to salt lake for a face to face with duncan and his lawyer to discuss the murder. but before any talking, first a deal, the terms were surprisingly simple. you tell us what happened, we'll listen to what you have to say, we cannot use anything against you that you tell us as a result of this interview. that was the agreement. >> that sound like immunity. >> no immunity is we will never prosecute you for everything. >> only the evidence that he tells you. >> they call it king for a day. it happens. >> there was one other condition to this deal. >> he was specifically emphatically told by us you cannot discuss this with anyone except your attorney. and he was told that on more than one occasion. >> and he agreed. so, now, far removed from the horror of the summer solstice
night in the manson tunnel, duncan martinez confessed it was he and nathan blaylock who dreamed up the scheme in vvolvi roommate ron baker. they were trying to get money. they had seen a kidnap show on television foiled by something that went wrong. they started doing talking. we can do better. and each step was going up, up, up, making it better, belter. for this plot. and ey opted to use ron as the victim. >> so, instead of driving ron to the bus stop that night they drove out to chatworth to the railroad track. somehow they had enough beers to get thoroughly drunk. then they took him for a dark walk throughthe manson tunnel. >> he admitted, yeah. i went along with this. but i really didn't think anything was going to happen. we were walking back in the tunnel. and nathan, jumped on ron and stabbed him a bunch of times.
>> i think is was just a thrill killing. now, could mar team tinez pulle off? i don't think he did. when you put the two personalities together, blaylock and martinez, then you have got the dynamite and the fuse. >> they saw he was dead said martinez and they ran. they washed off the blood with beer and went back to the apartment. and when the police saw through duncan's good story and his made up alibi, ran again. eventually to salt lake city where he enrolled in the university of utah. >> you have to realize what duncan motive's now to save his own butt. we told duncan you have to help us. to prove that nathan blaylock is a killer. >> detectives to some extent, duncan agreed to help build the case against his former roommate
and partner in crime. he took a blood test. to see if his blood matched the blood under ron baker's finger nails. it did not. >> the fact that martinez involved. and the chance that blaylock. >> nathan blaylock wasn't hard to find. heave was sitti he was sitting in jail. >> we got a search warrant for blaylock's blood. nathan in conversation. so we put the call in.
>> what durn can told us is being corroborated. maybe not every single thing. but the fact that they were involved, and that nathan was the stabber, became pretty apparent. >> detectives wanted more. duncan now, to wear a wire and actually meet with nathan in rson. >> i think he was a little nervous when he went in there. but duncan's personality. it hit him at the same type this is hollywood stuff here. i can really pull this off.
there was one more incriminating phone conversation with duncan and giving the cops just what they needed. then they dropped him off at the university where thanks to his deal he would resume his college life as if he had never harmed a hair on ron baker's head. >> he got out of the carve we shook hands. thanked him for his time. thanked hem for the work he had done. he said, you know it is too bad we met on these circumstances i would look to hang out with you guys. >> duncan martinez was literally getting away with murder and the life he went back to was so rewarding he would be crazy to mess that up. coming up -- could duncan keep his part of the deal by keeping quiet? >> he told the story, you didn't know where his story telling, or his adventures would take you.
>> turns out getting away with murder wouldn't be so easy. when "dateline" continues. s of . [ female announcer ] you can't pass inspection with pieces left behind. that's why there's charmin ultra strong. its enhanced diamondweave texture is soft and more durable. more durable so you're left with a more dependable clean. fewer pieces left behind. plus all that charmin softness. now how's it look, mom? all clear, son. [ female announcer ] charmin ultra strong. enjoy the go. also, try charmin freshmates for a cleaner clean. shakes off dry winter skin with 2 separate ribbons. the white ribbon that cleanses and the body butter ribbon that moisturizes continuously
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campus with 20,000 students. and doug martinez. in a few short months, duncan had gone from murder suspect, big man on cap pumpus. >> when i met duncan it seemed he dropped into salt lake city from another planet. a sorority girl at the university, an attorney in town, remembers dating duncan when he arrived on campus. >> i think i was attracted to duncan in part because he was different. he was really funny and told these stories and you kind of wanted to be with duncan to go along for the ride. >> seemingly free and clear from being indicted in the ron baker murder, duncan joined a fraternity and attended classes. >> duncan for all intents and purposes was going to get away with this. >> again, going back to the deal that we made with him, nothing he said could be used.
>> seemed simple enough. no talking, no case, no charges. but this was after all, duncan martinez. >> he has to talk. he has got to be the, the star of the conversation. that's duncan martinez, you know? >> so for the moment, detectives focused on nailing nathan blaylock sitting in jail on bank robbery charges. armed with secret recordings, detectives, paid blaylock a visit, hoping to force a confession. >> i remember saying to nathan, you are saying you weren't involved. but there is somebody telling us that you were. >> he said well they're lying. i said well do you want to hear what this person said? he says, yeah, yeah, i would love to. >> this is something that you did that is [ bleep ] me up. i don't knowhat to do about it. >> ask god for forgiveness. that's what i have done. >> how can you ask for forgiveness for something like this? >> it doesn't make it better,
doesn't make it worse. it makes me able to function and continue to do what i have to do. >> as soon as he hears his voice and hears what he is saying and knows who he is talking to. his head went just like this. and he sat there for about two minutes and didn't say a word. i almost felt bad. we had him so badly. we said do you want to hear more. >> the is is your friend too, i thought? >> it is something we deal with it. and it will stop bothering you. >> devastating stuff. devastating. at thatpoint. he is kind of losing faith on his ability to hold out and not tell us what happened. and there is a lull. i believe -- afor . >> and that was the break right there, his confession. >> finally, 2 1/2 years after
ron baker's murder, detectives had what they wanted. blaylock is arrested. the case is put together. blaylock is indicted on first degree murder with special circumstances. >> it looked like a solid case. at least one of the two would be held accountable for the crime here at the manson tunnel. but not everybody was happy with the way justice was evolving. >> so i thought it was horrible. i didn't like it at all. i mean i was happy in one sense that -- that you know they would get information against nathan. but, you know i think in our mind, and duncan was equally responsible. >> we know now that duncan was involved. but you don't have enough evidence. and we thought that maybe down the road something will come towards us where we can charge him. >> but how? with nathan blaylock taking the murder wrap. duncan martinez could look forward to a bright, shining future. except there was one person,
murder of ron baker, that's where detectives were. >> nathan is in custody. he has been charged. duncan, go off and live your life. but we're not giving you immunity. anything you say. >> that was clear to him. just have to shut up now. >> clear to his attorney. >> that's how it would end. a murder one rap for nathan. a college degree for duncan. but, maybe it was the air in salt lake city, maybe it was simple greed or arrogant foolishness. near downtown there is a bicycle shop which was just too tempting a target for a certain local psychist who decided he needed parts. the two bit bungle break in, the thief was caught red-handed. salt lake city jim prior. >> the burglar was identified as agentman by the name of duncan martinez. >> yes, the very same duncan martinez.
we had gone to the residence with duncan looking for his identificion. found a business card from a detective, lapd, robbery homicide unit. >> detective's business card, lying around is enough to spark anybody's interest. especially when it is a cop who find it. so after booking duncan, detective prior called detective jackson. i kind of laugh, i said, yeah, i know a guy like duncan martinez. >> rick said see if you can get in and see if he will tell you about it. >> duncan was released and went home. a phone message was waiting. >> the next day duncan did manage to call back which led to a conversation that we ended up recording. >> just after a few minutes of coaxing, duncan like always began few talk. >> i witnessed my best friend kill my best friend. and i didn't know what to do. >> then he starred describing having gone through a railroad tunnel with two other
individuals and an altercation occurred between the two subjects. >> nathan was sitting on top of ron. ron was just struggling trying to get him off. why are you doing this to me the what have i ever done to you. >> was exactly the story duncan had told lapd detectivesxcept for one chilling detail he had not revealed. until now. >> i told nathan, dude, are you going to finish him off or something you can't leave help like that. he slit his throat. >> did this guy say what he just said. maybe is was bottled up inside hip. he wanted to get it off his chest. boy didn't he. >> news of duncan's interview traveled fast back to the lapd. >> look an early christmas gift. i was thrilled. independent of stuff told to us. he broke the deal. >> duncan martinez was arrested, charge first degree murder. just like his pal and partner. nathan blaylock.
he was sentenced to life without paro parole. now duncan would have his own day in court. prosecutors offered duncan e more deal. instead of murder one, which could send him to prison for life, duncan could plead to a lesser charge. he did assis us. what was the deal? the lowest i wanted to go, personally, i made this known to the da's office was a top level manslaughter. then i wanted to add on other things. personally i wanted to get it u to 25, 30 years. >> which he would serve, 20, 15, 20. >> probably. 12 1/2. >> ultimately the das office offered duncan a deal for second degree murder with a sentence of 15 years to life. and duncan, turned it down. >> he had people including jackson telling him, what would be the better path to take in this, in this decision. and he rolled the dice. >> prosecutor, ann ingles took
the case to trial. >> he had a very good attorney. a very good argument. >> on one hand, as duncan's lawyer argued. he hadn't done the standing in fac he helped the cops catch and convict the killer, nathan blaylock. >> if you aid and abet, or co-conspirator, then you are -- just as liable as the person that does the killing. i think martinez was the brains behind the operation. >> and the jury agreed. duncan martinez was convicted of first degree murder. as the judge read his sentence, duncan, for once, was speechless. especially upon hearing the three words he never expected to hear. life without parole. >> that was his choice. he had a chance to take a second degree murder. and at least be eligible. and, it didn't. >> the train still roared through the manson tunnel.
kids still marvel at symbols on its sooty walls. a few miles away, the methodist church ron attended and was eulogized was still there. >> we have a sign in front of the church. a memorial to ron. i change the message on it every week. every time i work, i think of it. >> and in downtown los angeles at the lapd, detective rick jackson now just a few years from retirement still works the tough cases. he handled dozens of homicides, and dealt with hundreds of criminals. but no one quite like duncan martinez. >> ki of feel he deserved to get somewhat of a break. even though i despise what he did. i despised him personally more than nathan blaylock. >> conflicted? perhaps he is.
duncan did help solve an awful crime but will never be free again. >> one of these days i may sit down with him before i retire and peck hick his brain. >> seeking answers on why duncan's life is defined by one word "betrayal." >> he betrayed, first and foremost the victim in this case. second he betrayed his new best friend, nathan blaylock to help himself. third he betrayed himself. which is kind of the irony of the whole thing. and his life is over. and there is more from the office and from the family of ron baker on our website. log on to dateline.msnbc.com.